Veggie Tales: Going Meat-Free For The Weekend
It might be environmentally-friendly to consume less meat, but how satisfying can a vegetarian diet be, really? Nicholas Mak, Community Ambassador of CapitaSpring, tried going meat-free for a weekend to find out.
We’re used to getting our meat neatly packed and labelled in styrofoam boxes, in the air-conditioned convenience of the supermarket, which is why it can be difficult to realise how industrial meat like beef from cattle farms has a huge impact on our environment.
As consumers, we might not have given much thought to it, but the entire process of meat production, from the clearing of forested areas for livestock ranching and farming, to the carbon footprint of processing, packaging, and exporting meat, contributes greatly to the complex environmental issues we face today. Approximately 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat industry, while 30% of all land on Earth is used for livestock farming-related purposes.
That said, it’s easy to see why cutting down on our consumption of meat is a more environmentally-friendly way forward. Plus, there are many more plant-based meat options that are readily available in Singapore, compared to just a few years ago. But some questions linger: is it expensive to go vegetarian? Can we actually be satiated on a vegetarian diet?
To answer these questions, we challenged Nicholas Mak, Community Ambassador of CapitaSpring, to go vegetarian for the weekend. Here’s how it went down.
Dinner — Famished after work, I popped by Flavours by Saute, a fully vegetarian eatery at Funan, for dinner. I’m forgoing my usual Friday night dinner and drinks with friends for a solo vegetarian meal this week, but I've heard good things about this place, so I'm not complaining.
They’re a fusion restaurant with a really extensive menu that left me spoilt for choice, but I ended up ordering two of their bestsellers—their orh luak ($13.90) and their Nanyang Curry Lion Mane Cheeeezy patty ($15.90), both of which were incredibly flavourful and satisfying.
Who knew vegetarian orh luak could taste so good? Portions were huge too, and I ended up packing my leftovers home for my family to try.
Spoiler: they loved it too, and want me to bring them there next week.
Day 1 Total Spent: $29.80
Satisfaction Level: 4/5
Flavours by Saute — Funan, B1-30. Open 11:30am to 9:30pm daily.
Breakfast — Woke up bright and early this morning to get a head start on my day. I’ve got a bunch of vegetarian recipes that I found online last night and am excited to try cooking something good for dinner tonight. Headed off to the market to get the groceries I need but made a pit stop at Mr Bean at Bedok Mall before heading home.
I’ve always loved their pancakes and soya milk, so I thought this would be a safe option for my meat-free breakfast. I went for their Vegetarian Jade Tofu millet grain soy porridge ($3.20), which though deceptively small when packed, turned out to be hearty and filling.
A warm, savoury start to my Saturday—and I didn’t miss the meat, especially when I realised it was actually 60c cheaper than the options with chicken in them!
Lunch — Had to step out to run a couple of errands today, and didn't really plan what to eat beforehand. I happened to walk past Miam Miam and saw that they offer a vegetarian version of their signature spaghetti ($15.90) on the menu.
I’ve never actually eaten at Miam Miam before, so I thought it was worth a shot. I could smell the tantalising aroma of bacon from the regular signature spaghetti that the neighbouring table ordered, but I must say the shoyu-based sauce in the vegetarian was surprisingly umami. I guess that makes up for the lack of meat.
Dinner — As mentioned, I had a plant-based recipe that I was eager to try, so I offered to prepare dinner for the entire family today. I bought a bunch of eggplants ($4) from the market this morning, so all I had to do was to start prepping. After all, for the recipe—a vegan unagi don—all you really need are eggplants, potato starch, rice, seaweed, sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce—most of which I already had at home.
My dad is quite the skeptic when it comes to vegan or vegetarian versions of food he loves (in this case, char-grilled unagi), but he admitted that this plant-based option was really quite tasty, and I agree. Who knew an eggplant could taste just as luxurious as a whole unagi? And it only cost a fraction of the price of an actual unagi don.
Maybe being a vegetarian isn’t so bad after all.
Day 2 Total Spent: $23.10
Satisfaction Level: 3/5
Mr Bean — Bedok Mall, B2-K2, open 8am to 9pm daily; Bukit Panjang Plaza, 01-19, open 8:30am to 10pm daily;
Lot One, B1-K29, open 9:30am to 9:30pm daily.
Miam Miam — Bugis Junction, 02-14, open 11:30am to 9pm Monday to Thursday, 11:30am to 10pm Friday, 11am to 10pm Saturday, and 11am to 9pm Sunday;
Westgate, 02-27 and 29, open 11:30am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, 11:30am to 10pm Friday, and 11am to 10pm Saturday.
Breakfast — After my MasterChef moment last night, I wanted something simpler for breakfast, so I popped by the Starbucks closest to my place to grab a quick bite with my family.
The egg white, roasted pepper, mushroom and cheddar wrap ($6.20) is my usual go-to breakfast order, which, I realised, is vegetarian-friendly too! If you haven't had it before, you really should.
Lunch — How is it my second last meal of this challenge already? This time, I decided to try something a little different and ordered the Rendang Impossible Burger ($15.90) from Swensen's at Bedok Mall through a food delivery app. I’ve avoided plant-based meats for the longest time, just because the thought of it being made in a lab kind of puts me off.
When my food arrived, I was half expecting to bite into a dry, crumbly patty, but boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The patty was so juicy and tender, and tasted just like real meat, which is the most surprising thing. Plus, the rendang sauce was rich and spicy, and really hit the spot.
In fact, I found myself thinking about that juicy patty even well after lunch, which doesn't happen very often.
Dinner — For my final plant-based meal of the weekend, I invited my family to join me for dinner at Nature Café at Aperia Mall on the recommendation of a friend.
Like Flavours by Saute, Nature Café’s menu was super extensive, with many Asian and Western options to choose from. I opted for the Korean bibimbap rice ($9.90), which came with a tasty sweet spicy sauce and a mushroom cutlet. My mom also really enjoyed her hotplate “cod fish” set ($16.50), which was served with their house special sauce.
Day 3 Total Spent: $32
Satisfaction Level: 5/5
Starbucks — Multiple outlets, including Asia Square Tower 2, 02-22, open 7:30am to 7pm Monday to Friday; Capital Tower, 01-01 to 02, open 7am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 3pm Saturday.
Swensen's — Multiple outlets.
Nature Café — Aperia Mall, 02-14 to 15. Open 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 9:15pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 9:15pm Saturday to Sunday.
I was honestly pretty apprehensive embarking on this meat-free journey, because I had somehow always believed that a plant-based diet could never be as satisfying as a regular meat-inclusive one, but boy, was I wrong. I’ve found so many great vegetarian places to eat at, and even discovered just how diverse a plant-based diet can be—I’ve seen recipes like watermelon katsu and jackfruit rendang that I’m now curious to try out.
I will say though, that plant-based meats can be pretty pricey, so it definitely isn't something you'd want to be consuming daily, but vegetables and other fresh ingredients are more affordable. Having dined out for most of the weekend, my wallet is feeling the pinch, so if you ask me whether it’s expensive to go on a plant-based diet in Singapore, my answer would be that it depends.
If you dine out regularly and opt for fancier dishes like Beyond burgers or Impossible foods, then yes, it would cost you quite a bit. But if you cook at home more often, or go for simpler meals (like skipping the meat dishes at the economic rice stall), then it might even be cheaper than a meat-inclusive diet.
That said, I think I’ll actually start committing to a vegetarian diet twice a week. After all, I’ve got all these new recipes and eateries to try out, and it does the Earth some good as well.
If you’d like to get closer to nature, plan a visit to explore CapitaSpring as part of Singapore Heritage Fest 2022 (SHF) from now till 29 May 2022! Get lost in the 4-storey Green Oasis, a spiralling botanical promenade home to over 38,000 plants with more than 70 types of plant species. Check out the Sky Garden on level 51, which is the tallest publicly accessible observatory deck offering a 360-degree panoramic view of Marina Bay and the Central Business District. Also, as part of SHF, heritage seekers can also embark on a scavenger hunt tour of the Bugis precinct with family and friends to discover the rich stories of Bugis Junction, Bugis Street and Waterloo Street!
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